Push for Better User Experience Not Just from Millennials

Improving UX isn't just coming from the 20-somethings crowd.


Dan DeFrancesco discusses how his initial hypothesis that millennials were the only ones calling for better user experience wasn’t correct.

It takes a big person to admit when they’re wrong, but I’m not afraid to. When I first dove into my feature this month on large firms focusing on improving user experience (UX), I thought the drivers behind the cultural shift were millennials.

To me, it was simple math. Millennials entering the workforce for the first time have been raised on social media platforms that pride themselves on the user experience. They are also a tech-savvy group that have no issues keeping up with the latest trends in the space.

It seemed natural to me that as millennials made their way into firms across the financial services industry there would be a shift toward firms focusing more on their user experience as the requests from employees and clients leaned that way.

What I discovered, though, is that that line of thinking isn’t necessarily true. Sure, millennials have played a big part in larger firms’ shift toward taking a more significant look at UX, but they aren’t the sole reason. It’s not like millennials are the only ones using iPhones and Twitter, right?

Barb O’Malley, an engagement manager within the enterprise enablement unit at Northern Trust, put things in perspective for me.

To blindly blanket a firm with UX focusing on millennials because you believe they are the biggest drivers would be a mistake.

“Well, the millennials are certainly pushing it, but I will tell you that my 78-year-old mother has an iPad and she can book airplane tickets and move money on it,” O’Malley says. “A lot of that is down to the user interface. The user interface for the iPad is something easy enough to master for someone who was afraid of a computer and wouldn’t touch a PC. She’s totally comfortable with the iPad.”

Consider all Parties

Wendy Redshaw, CIO of the Knowledge Visualization unit at Deutsche Bank, offers a telling example of why firms shouldn’t just be worried about only appealing to millennials. Redshaw was working with the Frankfurt-based bank on signs it was creating to promote the digital bank and digital branch of the future. The signs showed clients standing with a Deutsche Bank advisor and interacting with a big screen. 

The goal was to show that the bank would use interactive technology to work with its clients. However, what stood out to Redshaw was the fact that the client was standing. Redshaw thought of her parents and other people of their generation, who wouldn’t be able to stand up for any extended length of time. The sign was isolating potential customers, as people like Redshaw’s parents are natural clients of the bank. 

In addition to that, the firm wasn’t considering the fact that the millennials the bank was so keen to acquire, like most other financial services firms, would eventually get old and also not be able to stand. While Redshaw’s example is drawn from the retail banking sector, the principle holds true when it comes to UX on the institutional side as well. Firms can’t just look to please millennials—they need to consider the entire workforce.

Client’s Concerns

The concept of UX is to consider each client’s concerns and needs and to try to meet their individual requirements. To blindly blanket a firm with UX focusing on millennials because you believe they are the biggest drivers would be a mistake.

“Whether it be millennials or not, the consumerization of technology has really given us new expectations of how technology should work and how easy things should be,” says Lucille Mayer, CIO of client experience delivery at BNY Mellon. “There is no manual for how to order something on Amazon—you just go in and inherently know what to do,” she explains. “How do you give that same experience to someone who might come to work every day? We’ve been sorely lacking about that, not only in financial services, but in all other industries too.” 

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